In our culture, the meaning of “fame” has evolved over the years.
Today’s common meaning of “fame” is “celebrity,” although its original meaning is “renown.” And even today, a wall of fame harkens back to honoring individuals of great renown who, throughout their lives or careers, have exemplified greatness and glory.
Origins of the Wall of Fame
One of the first wall, hall or walk of fame, the Walhalla memorial, is conceived in Germany in 1807 and is built between 1830 and 1842. It isn’t until the year 1900 that the term “hall of fame” is popularized in the United States – with the completion of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans at New York’s Bronx Community College. Its inspiration is the Ruhmeshalle in Munich, Germany built in 1843 to 1853. The German word “ruhmeshalle” translates directly to “hall of fame.” This, of course, it not to be confused with the famous Wall of Fame of Television Sitcom Dads, which is started by Paul Cohen and Dan Krieger at the University of Delaware!
Nevertheless, the list of people, achievements, philanthropists, even animals and yes, famous athletes and celebrities that is recognized by a wall of fame is usually chosen by a group of electors, an organization or community, and may be national, state, local or private in nature. Different types include:
- plaques or signs worthy of honored members posted to a wall of fame
- buildings that enshrine inducted honorees in a hall with sculptures, plaques and displays of memorabilia
- signs inscribed on a sidewalk or drive, called a walk of fame
Walls of fame are found in offices, universities, stadiums and athletic facilities, hospitals, theaters, libraries and museums as well as outdoors in public gardens and arboretums around the country. Some honor corporate founders, board members, employees of the year, presidents and those television dads we talked about earlier.
One unique wall of fame can be found at the Cavern Club* in Liverpool, England. The original jazz club opened in 1957 and becomes famous during the city’s rock and roll scene of the 1960s. The Beatles play the club in their early years. The original Cavern closes in 1973 and is all but lost until 1984, when it is rebuilt to the original plans using many of the original bricks, which are engraved with the names of bands and musicians who played there.
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